The Cleveland Way. Staithes to Robin Hoods Bay
Day 5. 19 miles
Today was the second of the longer days that I’d planned in the brief prep that I did prior to the walk. The first, from The North York Moors to Kildale had nearly finished me off, but as today promised much less in the way of climbing than I went through on Saturday, I wasn’t too concerned, even taking into account the fact I’d already added three miles or so on to todays total by stopping the night in Staithes. Despite that, I allowed myself a later start again, and made the most of a lie-in and a lovely cooked breakfast in my B&B, run by the lovely David, a native of Leeds who moved up here several years ago and now runs The Endeavour, a four bedroomed house on the main street that I’d heartily recommend.
When I say today doesn’t involve much climbing, I wasn’t purposely discounting the exiting of Staithes itself which for a few minutes heads steeply up the southern side of the town and through some woods but as it’s just after you’ve enjoyed a hearty breakfast, it shouldn’t be too taxing. And, again, the pay off is a gorgeous view back over the rooftops and in the case of today, also included a rainbow to complete one of the many picturesque views that can be enjoyed on the Cleveland Way. Also today was the first since Saturday when my waterproofs weren’t called for. There were a few spots of drizzle as I left Staithes behind, but the days forecast was that of sunshine and aside from a grey introduction to Whitby, it was lovely to spend the day pretending as though it was summer - in shorts and t-shirt.
I eventually peeled myself away from the birds eye view and left Staithes firmly but fondly behind as I rejoined the coastal path that leads to Port Mulgrave. A gentle breeze cooled the bright sun down as it cast shadows of the cliffs in front of me. If I could whistle, which I can’t, it was the sort of morning when you would stroll along without a care in the world, idly whistling away. I tried to replace the whistling with singing, but I’m equally as atrocious at that, too. Nevertheless, the point to be conveyed is that the conditions were perfect, there was no rain in my face and no chance of a gale blowing me into the North Sea. The green fields kept on coming as the path wound its way around the coastline, and it was flat and it was easy. Port Mulgrave is less a port these days than it is an empty reminder of its halcyon days a century ago when it was used to ship ironstone from the nearby mine, though any beachfront activity of that sort is long gone. The beach can be accessed via what appeared to be a series of ropes, and inland lies a cafe and a pub in the village itself, but there was no need for me to see either, so I continued on high land to Runswick Bay where I’d originally planned to camp at last night.
Typically, reaching the bay was via a slalom down some quiet lanes but once there it proved to be a lovely little place, and with the Sandside Cafe there on the northern end of the beach and with sea views, it seemed an ideal place to stop for twenty minutes to enjoy a pot of tea, which I enjoyed in the company of tables of retirees and pensioners. The warm sun radiated through the windows and rather than wanting to stay indoors like on previous days, the calm sea was just waiting to be walked past and handily the Cleveland Way officially heads along the sandy and golden beach for a quarter of a mile, before it heads up some steps and after a brief spot of woodland, the high ground is reached again and the elevated view of Runswick Bay in the distance can be enjoyed and then left behind as High Cliff and Catbeck Hill are traversed, before the next spot of (quiet) civilisation is passed through, in the shape of Kettleness, which is only really a farm and a few houses. The path changes direction and Whitby can be seen in the far distance. Don’t get too excited, though. Your lunchtime fish and chips needs to be earned, and there are still eight miles to go to reach there. Though, like the first few miles that today has brought, the mile upon mile of fields on the cliff edge was really lovely to walk through, especially with the warm sun still on my back like it was today.
Naturally, walking on high ground means there will be an eventual descent, and the steep steps through the woodland at Deepgrove Wyke seemed to coincide with some spots of rain from an increasingly grey sky overhead until Whitby was reached. This was via a plod on a busy and hard track which pounded the leg muscles to and beyond Sandsend, and then my least favourite section so far, a nigh on three mile walk to Whitby along the busy A174. This passed a long but quiet beach with the odd dog walker, and it was noticeable how everyone was dressed as though it was the middle of winter, in hats, big padded coats and trousers. No wonder I was given some funny looks as I hurried along still in just shorts and t-shirt. I just wanted this stretch done with and to reach Whitby, and the passing buses and cars and fumes did little to improve my sinking mood. It’s amazing how quickly you adapt to the solitude of the hills, and miss them immediately when they aren’t there. Happily, though, the road is exited as the Cleveland heads outland past the golf course, and Whitby quickly emerges as the path skittles along a high level route above the sea. I made sure to soothe my aching feet by sticking to the well cared for grassy banks either side of the walkways. Naturally, the closer I got to the harbour the busier it became, and especially at lunchtime it was like a midsummers day as I tried to find a way down to the waters edge via the quieter lanes and alleyways instead of the bustling, narrow streets. I quickly found the Magpie Cafe, which unsurprisingly was packed to the rafters, and after a few minutes of standing around for a table, did I have to carefully wriggle my way through the throngs of pensioners without hitting them around the head with my rucksack, which I could sense was attracting some interest.
I sure as hell wouldn’t have been distracted from my lunch even if a bunch of aliens had walked in wearing Notts County shirts, such the absolute deliciousness of my cod and chips. My second meal as such inside 24 hours was massive - I felt like I’d earned a bigger sized plate - and in fact upon finishing it I could have easily had more. I washed it down with a pot of tea and then made my exit, with some regret that an afternoon off in Whitby couldn’t have been taken advantage of, but I’d booked a room in the YHA at Boggle Hole and with still eight miles to go, and it being 3:00 when I left the cafe, I was up against it. I didn’t waste anytime in getting out the busy streets, anyone who got in my way might well have got a thwack with my rucksack as I hurtled past and then up the 199 steps to the abbey, where I did put aside a few minutes to have a nosey around, before heading off, firstly through the Caravan Park at Saltwick Nab, then finally, thankfully, into the peace and quiet of the peaceful fields and clifftops onwards from Black Nab. The fog warning station and lighthouse at Ling Hill are both navigated past and then its onwards through Widdy Hill. Much like this morning, the walking was beautiful though I admit to getting my head down and getting on with it at this point, such was the effect of being fuelled up by my Whitby lunch, and the fear again of having to finish in the dark. From the aching legs and feet on the approach to Whitby earlier, it’s still a wonderment where the fresh energy came from.
On Saturday, when along the high ground of the North York Moors, two great paths joined together and shared the land for a few miles, the Cleveland of course, and the Coast to Coast, and it was nice to again make acquaintance with the Coast to Coast as that trail reaches its own journeys end at Robin Hoods Bay. Naturally, years of two trails worth of walkers leads to eroded and muddy ground, and my fast pace was slowed right down at this juncture as I slid along, and somehow managed to stay completely vertical, too. Robin Hoods Bay then emerged and with it only being just gone 5:00, I knew I would finish in more than good time and the approach to the bay could be savoured, much like Staithes, lying cosily in the bay below. On the way down I got talking to a dog walker coming the other way; a Londoner who had moved to Robin Hoods Bay and who advised my YHA, a quarter mile along from RBH, could be reached via a walk along the beach. Bless him, he even checked the tide times for me. Confirming as he did I’d make it with no trouble, I found my way into the old fishing village and then down the steep but beautiful lane to the waters edge. I promised myself breakfast here in the morning and some time to explore. I walked along the wide beach and after having to get my boots wet in shallow water, I turned inland to see Boggle Hole YHA sitting cosily in the bay.